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Competing plans introduced by Republican and Democratic senators for redrawing the Omaha-area Second Congressional District would have produced significantly different results in the last presidential election -- not enough to have changed an Electoral College vote, but potentially decisive in the future. That’s according to an analysis by Nebraska Public Media News.
The way Congressional District 2 is currently drawn, Democrat Joe Biden outpolled Republican Donald Trump by slightly more than 22,000 votes of the more than 330,000 cast to win the district's Electoral College vote in the 2020 election
But Biden's lead would have shrunk by about 6,000 votes if the plan currently proposed by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan had been in effect, Nebraska Public Media News calculated. Linehan, who chairs the Legislature's Redistricting Committee, is a registered Republican in the officially nonpartisan Legislature.
A competing plan offered by Sen. Justin Wayne, the Democratic vice chair of the redistricting committee, would have increased Biden's margin over Trump by about 7,500 votes.
The differences result from the areas each plan would add or take out of the closely-divided district. The calculations were done by adding up results by precinct. Some existing precincts would be spit by the newly-proposed boundaries. But that wouldn’t affect enough votes to change these overall conclusions.
Linehan's plan would remove from the Second District those portions of Douglas County north and west of Interstate 680 and West Dodge Road -- an area that Trump carried by about 1,500 votes last year. She would add in Saunders County, where Trump outpolled Biden by almost 6,000 votes, and eastern Sarpy County, where Trump led by slightly over 1,500 votes. The result would have left Trump about 6,000 votes closer to Biden.
Wayne's plan would keep all of Douglas County in the Second District. But it would remove the western, more suburban and rural Republican parts of Sarpy County, which favored Trump by 9,000 votes, and insert the more eastern, evenly-split portions, where Biden ran only about 1,500 votes behind. The result would have increased Biden's margin over Trump by about 7,500 votes.
Neither one of these scenarios would have changed the Second District's Electoral College vote in 2020. But they could in the future. To put matters into perspective, in 2016 Donald Trump beat Hilary Clinton by about 6,500 votes in the district. And in 2008, before the last redistricting made the district more Republican, Barack Obama outpolled John McCain by about 3,500 votes.
The Redistricting Committee’s guideline specify that proposals should not favor any political party or consider voters political affiliation. Both Linehan and Wayne said affecting the Electoral College outcome was not their intent.
Linehan said her goal was to keep pace with the area’s rapidly growing population.
“It’s still a very, very competitive district. We were very conscious not to disenfranchise minorities…It’s a move to do what we’re ultimately going to have to do, (which) is split Douglas County,” Linehan said.
Wayne said he wanted to restore to the district those parts of Sarpy County that had historically been tied to Douglas County.
“All my congressional district does is go back to the original core. And we simply took the census tracts to try and move it as far as we can to include that original area that was always linked to the original core of Douglas County,” Wayne said.
Whatever the intent, with an Electoral College vote potentially in play, the effects of any changes are likely to be closely watched. The competing proposals will be discussed in public hearings by the Redistricting Committee this week, and by the full Legislature after that.
For a link to 2020 presidential votes in all counties, including Saunders, click here.
For a map of Sen. Linehan's proposed division of Douglas County, superimposed on precinct map, click here. (Line is approximate, based on verbal description).
For a map of Sen. Wayne's proposed division of Sarpy County, superimposed on precinct map, click here. (Line is approximate, based on verbal description).
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